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9OYS viewers rally to KGUN9's defense in Kelly-ALIPAC free-for-all

William Gheen, ALIPAC president. Courtesy ALIPAC.

9OYS viewers rally to KGUN9's defense in Kelly-ALIPAC free-for-all

CREATED May. 29, 2012 - UPDATED: May. 29, 2012

Notes by:  Forrest Carr, KGUN9 News Director

Since the start of the Memorial Day weekend, KGUN9 News has been bracing for an onslaught of out-of-town Facebook attacks that a right-wing political action committee known as ALIPAC has been trying to orchestrate.  On Saturday ALIPAC's prevaricator-in-chief, William Gheen, asked his followers to "please take action" on KGUN9's Facebook page to "correct" our reporting.

So far, nothing.  But Gheen himself has been busy, posting a new rant that layers a fresh lie onto the steaming mound he'd previously produced.  Now, according to Gheen, KGUN9 News has endorsed Democrat Ron Barber in his quest for the District 8 Congressional seat. 

This all began with a single question submitted to KGUN9 News by a single viewer, who wanted to know why, given criticisms by John McCain and the Anti-Defamation League claiming that ALIPAC is backed by white supremacists and the like, did Jesse Kelly accept ALIPAC's endorsement?  Kelly ducked the question -- which it was certainly his right to do -- but not before his outraged campaign spokesperson stopped the interview in mid-taping.  The spokesman later followed up with a finger-jabbing hallway hissy fit.  Shortly afterwards Gheen joined in with a campaign of lies directed at KGUN9.

In addition to the new lie, Gheen did respond to my challenge to answer our viewer's question himself, since Kelly won't.  Gheen sidestepped the question, though, claiming that it's not routine for candidates to accept such political action committee endorsements.  Gheen's answer conveniently overlooks the fact that Kelly sought the ALIPAC endorsement in 2010; had to sign a pledge of support to get it; and that Kelly's 2010 application led to the 2012 ALIPAC endorsement as well.

So far, Gheen's list of falsehoods and outright lies includes these whoppers:

1.  KGUN9 News claims that ALIPAC is tied to neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the like (we don't).
2.  KGUN9 never contacted Gheen to explore this issue (we did).
3.  To get in position to ask the question, KGUN9 "ambushed" Kelly (we didn't - the setting was a sit-down studio interview in which Kelly had agreed to participate, same as the other candidates).
4.  By relaying a viewer's question to Jesse Kelly, KGUN9 was trying to defame ALIPAC (we weren't).
5.  By relaying a viewer's question to Jesse Kelly, KGUN9 was trying to defame Kelly (we weren't).
6.  KGUN9 is actively seeking to defeat Jesse Kelly (we're not).
7.  Toward that end, KGUN9 has endorsed opponent Ron Barber (we haven't).
8.  KGUN9 is the only news medium to cover the ALIPAC endorsement controversy (we're not).
9.  KGUN9 has refused to provide ALIPAC's response and defense to our viewers (we provided it in detail).
10.  KGUN9 and its journalists are liberals (we're not).
11.  KGUN9 supports president Obama (we don't).
12.  KGUN9 supports illegal immigration - and in doing so, is killing people and has blood on its hands (come to think of it, this should count as three lies, not one).
13.  KGUN9 is lying about ALIPAC (we're not).
14.  The true intended target of KGUN9's Kelly question was ALIPAC, not Kelly, with the "clear goal" of damaging ALIPAC (it wasn't).
15.  KGUN9 has done no fact checking (we have).
16.  KGUN9 never would have contacted Gheen for a follow-up story last week had Gheen not called demanding it (we had fully intended to do a follow-up story; Gheen happened to call us first, as we were walking in for the day).
17.  KGUN9 is branding Black and Hispanics supporters of ALIPAC as neo-Nazis (Insert eye-roll here).
*18.  KGUN9 News continues to deprive viewers of the truth because we know we've "been caught" and that our coverage is "likely to result in some eventual firings" at KGUN9.  (See footnote below.)

That's a pretty impressive list.  With a little more effort, I'm sure Gheen could bring it to an even two dozen.  But, at least I did get him to admit that his organization "rewrites" the headlines it collects from other media outlets in order to make them more to ALIPAC's liking before posting them on Gheen's ALIPAC Facebook page.  Damn the liberal media and their liberal reporters for publishing dull, even-handed, non-lurid, "censored" liberal headlines.

Some might ask (I'm sure some of my colleagues will) why KGUN9 News is responding to someone who spouts lies with greater regularity than Old Faithful sends out bursts of steam.  The answer is this:  when a right-winger labels a journalist as  a "liberal" in response to an uncomfortable question, it's an attempt to destroy the credibility of the journalist, so that you'll believe the politician instead.   It's become a standard tactic for many conservatives -- one that deliberately aims to undermine a process -- journalism -- that is utterly necessary for our country's way of life. 

That is no trivial matter.  Worse, so far the tactic is working.  How many Americans do not believe in the "liberal media conspiracy?"  The smear campaign against journalism succeeds because journalists, not wanting to get drawn into political catfights, keep quiet.

That is a mistake.  This has to stop.  An unchallenged lie quickly becomes the perceived truth. In a well-meaning attempt not to become a part of the problem, by their silence too many journalists are contributing to the perpetuation of the liberal media myth.

Mark Twain famously observed that "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."  A well-known 20th century head of state once noted with confidence, "The great masses will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one."  (I'll refrain from telling you who said that, but I urge you to look it up). 

It's time for journalists to drive a stake through the heart of this Big Lie.  It's no exaggeration to say that the health of our nation depends on it.

Most modern mainstream news organizations are neither liberal nor conservative in their reporting.   In fact, we are the only people you can count on -- the only ones -- always to do our level best to bring you the unadulterated facts every day, with no hidden agendas, no cards up our sleeves, and without trying to change your viewpoint.  Toward that end, as 9 On Your Side's fans in particular know, we ask tough questions of everyone.   Journalists are defenders and upholders of democracy.  And as I pointed out to Gheen, if he and his cronies have declared journalism to be their enemy, what does that make them?

KGUN9 viewers have been overwhelmingly (but not unanimously) supportive of us in this particular fight.  Many (but not all) also are critical of the way the Kelly campaign has responded to our viewer's question.  Here is what some of you are saying in the wake of the most recent round of ALIPAC attacks.

Shelley Bresler -- "Thank you for keeping them honest."

Alicia La Motte -- "You guys are great, keep up the good work! God Bless."

Jessica Dawn West-Paul -- "Well done, KGUN.  Thank you for asking the questions and shedding more light on who Jesse Kelly really is."

Mona White-Ortega -- "Thank you KGUN for reporting the news. If they want to open their mouths then they need to back it up with the facts."

Carolyn Mello - "I watched the interview clip with amazement as Jesse Kelly stated the same B.S. over and over as the ladies laughed in the background. Thought to myself what an idiot.  Doesn't he realize how ridiculous he appears? AZ is smarter than that."

Aaron Young -- "The only reason that question was asked was to try to associate Kelly with a supposed hate group, plain and simple. How many 'Viewers Voice' questions weren't asked?"

Gary DiNardo -- "Kelly has had sufficient time to address the issue of ALIPAC's endorsement. C'mon, Jesse, fill us in."

Brianna Sallander -- "So you're going to look into, and report honestly, who's backing presidential campaigns too, right?"

Dave Burdick -- "Kelly's refusal to address the question or to denounce the endorsement will impact his campaign, since I believe we are very very very tired of candidates and their backers who lie, avoid questions, or do not live up to their campaign promises. We need to keep asking the tough questions, and let the candidates have the option of making or breaking their reputation, integrity and honesty."

Albert Mudge -- "Why don't you also check Ron Barber while you're at it.  See what he really supports. How much is Obamacare going to cost us?  Ask the small business person??"

Cynthia Harrington -- "Dirty politics, Kgun. Dirty."

Susan Mahne -- "Why not just go ahead and endorse Ron Barber Kgun? This totally reminds me of your pitbull reporting. So one sided. And NO I wouldn't and don't own a pitbull."

Cassandra De La Serna -- "Wow, this is what I call REAL reporting!"

Jason Edward Lee -- "Way to go! This whole thing is ridiculous and ludicrous. The ONE person who can stop this issue from snowballing into typical political debauchery (Jesse Kelly) refuses to speak out on this. Rather, he acts incredibly rude to Marcelino Benito in his insistence that his campaign is about lowering gas prices, energy efficiency and other blanket campaign rhetoric.  Three times Marcellino Benito asked, and three times Jesse Kelley re-stated the same thing, each time his expression becoming more and more smug, and his smile growing deeper and shadier.... His behavior is not befitting a member of Congress for Arizona. We can do better. AND I'M A REPUBLICAN!"

Adam McAnally -- "Planned Parenthood [editor's note:  Specifically,the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona blog] ... endorsed and donated to Ron Barber.  They represent an organization who actively accepts donations from racist groups to performs abortions marked specifically for people of a certain ethnicity. Being pro-choice is a logical and legally sound position, I don't take it, but I respect their right to be heard. Being pro-planned parenthood, however, is a different story. They are a racist organization founded on racism and continuing that tradition today.  Where was the question to Ron Barber on that endorsement?"

Dottie Nead McRae -- "I'm telling you it's getting really hard to tell who is the biggest liar & who is just saying what they think we want to hear, not that they feel like they have to keep the "promises" they make once they get in office. It's sad that we can't trust the people we put in office. It's whose got the most money & can get people to back their lies. Sad we can' t find some honest people in our government offices."

Tiz Irons -- "Great response, Forrest! And by the way:  Jennifer, your interview with Kelly will be a teaching tool for future journalism majors! Way to go and thank you KGUN-9 for raising the bar of professionalism!"

Ronald Gordon -- "Why was Waddell so nice to the spokesperson off camera? Everything that he said and did two years ago is relevant today. Keep up the pressure."

Johnnyrod (via KGUN9.com) -- "Glad to see KGUN standing up on this!  Jennifer handled the Kelly interview expertly and professionally.  Good job to all the KGUN staff for showing the highest standards of journalism, we need more like you!  Thanks!!"

Caroline Isaacs (via email):  "Kudos to you and KGUN for standing by the viewer-submitted question about ALIPAC's endorsement of Jesse Kelly.... In this political environment, real journalism is more important than ever.  Thank you for asking serious questions, and expecting actual answers."

Theresa Mueller (via email):  "I want to compliment you on your handling of the Jesse Kelly interview and your commitment to honor the question of the individual regarding  ALIPAC.  I was unaware of ALIPAC until your interview and I will research the organization. However, is almost doesn’t matter what your question was.  What does matter that a political candidate chooses, publicly, to denounce the questions of a constituent as 'inappropriate'! .... It is good to know that his behavior did not influence the journalism ethics of you, Jennifer and Kgun9. Again my compliments to you and Kgun9."

Katie Montgomery -- "So we are also going to see negative reports on all the Democrats this election season too right? Can someone address the issue of Obama promising to cut the deficit in half? As long as it's fair I have no problem with tough questions being asked. Can KGUN link to some articles where they asked though questions to the democratic candidates of the past or the present elections?"

In answer to Katie Montgomery's question, I pointed out to her that KGUN9's news pages are filled with stories asking tough questions.  It's what 9 On Your Side is famous for.  Our interviews with Kelly's opponents also featured some questions provided to us by viewers. The difference is that neither of those opposing campaigns objected to the questions or attacked us for having asked them.  Our most recent political coverage can be found in our Project Red, White & Blue special coverage section.

Your comments are welcome.  Post them here or on our KGUN9 News Facebook page.

*Item #18 is new.  Gheen added it late Tuesday night via a posting on KGUN9's Facebook page,  apparently having accepted my challenge to see if he can get his list of whoppers up to an even two dozen.  I'm confident that with a little more effort, he can make it. I'm pulling for him.-- FC

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